It didn’t take but about an hour to clear the agenda for the Jan. 3 meeting of the Albuquerque City Council. While there was some city business going down, the cool stuff happened beforehand, outside of the council chambers at the car show on Civic Plaza.
“I love you for your Pink Cadillac/ crushed velvet seats/ riding in the back/ cruising down the street/ waving to the girls/ feeling out of sight”…
Mayor Tim Keller drove around Downtown this past new year’s weekend in true cruiser style with Councilor Klarissa Peña behind the wheel of her 1959 light pink Cadillac. Peña, a car cruising enthusiast, met up with Keller at El Centro de Igualdad Y Derechos where Keller, Peña and Councilor Cynthia Borrego also pledged support to protect the rights of our immigrant family members, friends and neighbors.
Peña and Keller then cruised down Fourth Street to a car party on Civic Plaza where they met up with Councilor Isaac Benton to sign off on a resolution creating a new cruising task force. With the flick of a pen on the cherry red hood of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, the 10-member taskforce will look at responsible cruising. This is being done to eventually repeal the current ordinance that says cruising is a threat to public health and safety by congesting traffic and causing air pollution. The new group is comprised of car club peeps, Central Avenue business owners, law enforcement officers and municipal representatives. Keller, a hesher who appreciates throwing a cruise, said the idea is to promote a responsible appreciation of low riders, classic custom cars, cruising and how they are woven into Albuquerque’s culture and history.
The mayor’s office led the city’s efforts to stop needless animal cruelty with a public condemnation of a recent coyote killing contest that was planned by a Burque firearms dealer. The killings did not happen in Bernalillo County but went on as planned in Torrance County, instead. One speaker told the Council that about 55 to 65 coyotes were killed in the contest.
Councilor Pat Davis tugged on the rug when he asked Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael about an administrative decision to postpone community meetings regarding the new Integrated Development Ordinance. The IDO is a mammoth rewrite of the city zoning code that was passed in November and set to go into effect in May. The public meetings are intended to help people understand any zone changes to their property. Davis asked for the meetings to go on as scheduled because he does not want the public to feel pushed out of the process. Rael said this has been a short transition period and the mayor and staff are still reviewing the zoning code and subsequent issues and will reschedule the meet-ups as soon as they are done with their review.
Councilor Trudy Jones took her opportunity to lightly scold the new administration, saying, “But you knew from the beginning it was going to be a very short transition. This is an extremely important piece of legislation … you need to be briefed and you need to do it quickly.” She went on to say that she expected to hear back in the next few days when the public meetings will be rescheduled.
Rael responded as the seasoned and smooth talking administrator he is, saying the Council would be fully briefed soon and will have some dates for the rescheduled meetings within a few days.
Councilor Ken Sanchez snuck in a little sucker punch of his own when he asked what the deal is with the financing for Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. Sanchez voted consistently to move forward with every phase of the project during the former administration. Sanchez grilled Rael a bit about why the new administration has not solved the ART problems left behind by the former administration.
Rael repeated what he said earlier that they are doing a careful review of the project and will report back. He said they will be meeting with the Federal Transit Authority soon to get a written, signed commitment, something the prior administration did not get done prior to spending the many millions. But, Rael cautioned, much depends on the whims of the current federal administration on whether the promised funding would be in the federal budget after the recent federal tax cuts.
Community cable activist Lara Dale got emotional over the recent death of longtime community cable advocate Rosemarie Sanchez. Sanchez, along with her daughter Nannie, have long been activists for people with disabilities. They also had participated in Burque’s community cable channels with a popular show under the prior operator. Sanchez died Dec. 23 from a stroke. “She and Nannie are the reason I have fought so hard for public access,” Dale told the Council through tears. Dale said the Council needs to get on the ball with issuing the long overdue Request for Proposals for the operation of the city’s Comcast community cable channels.
Councilor Davis asked the administration about the status of the RFP draft. Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said they were reviewing the former administration’s draft of the request for proposals and are making some tweaks to it. Dale asked the Council to initiate an external audit of the millions of dollars that should be sitting in a couple of city coffers—and that only should be used to operate the community cable channels. Dale said she wants Rosemarie to be able to rest in peace. To that, Council President Sanchez replied, somewhat ironically, “Thank you your time has expired.”